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Mayor Anthony A. Williams has promised Major League Baseball a $400 million publicly financed stadium for the woeful Montreal Expos.
Major League Baseball is poised to pocket hundreds of millions of dollars when it sells the team to one of three competing ownership groups.
The eventual owners will pocket millions in stadium naming rights, parking fees, and luxury box sales.Orioles owner Peter Angelos stands to pocket hundreds of millions thanks to Major League Baseball.
D.C. residents will get at least a few more sports bars. Are you ready for Terrmel Sledge Bobblehead Day?
Proponents of baseball by the Anacostia must answer one question: What about the Garden of Love?
By David Morton
James L. Moyler Jr. sits in a chair next to a tow lot’s barbed-wire-topped chain-link fence. The lot, on the 1300 block of Half Street SE, belongs to Alternative Towing Transportation Service, and it’s occupied by a sky-blue church bus, a dozen beat-up cars, and Moyler, who says he’s both the security guard and the mechanic. Trash clutters the lot and the thick grass just outside the fence.
“We don’t worry about that,” he says, referring to the public side of the fence. “Somebody’s gonna clean it up. If we don’t clean it, someone around the corner will clean it up. We don’t need to cut [the grass]. Someone around the corner will cut it. We look out for each other.”
Yes, it’s that kind of neighborhood: If you don’t clean up your crap, someone else will. That someone is “the Congressman,” aka Alton Majette, who lives on the unit block of N Street SE. The Congressman cuts the grass and picks up the trash. The Congressman looks after everything around here. That’s why he’s called the Congressman.
Three years ago, the Congressman, a 55-year-old former security guard and maintenance man, moved into one of the four row houses on the south side of N Street, the neighborhood’s population center. Unlike his old neighborhood, off New York Avenue NW, this one felt like a junkyard. But the junk fired his imagination. He found purpose in tidying up this permanently cluttered area.
He may start at 5 in the morning, when he wakes up. In the summer, he may start at midnight, to stay out of the sun.
He cuts the grass around the service station on South Capitol. Then he takes care of the curbside grass of the fenced-in lot across the street from him. He does the lot behind the recently closed Normandie liquor store on M Street. He goes down the alley and trims back the brush. He cuts down plant life in places where no one will ever see it.
Majette does all this at considerable personal expense. He owns five lawn mowers and two tillers, and keeps them under a makeshift shelter in his back yard. (He used to have 10 mowers, but he sold off the surplus.) The men who drift over from the other side of South Capitol Street and break through car windows leave Majette’s lawn mowers alone. He doesn’t bother to lock the machines up. “I get pretty much respect,” says Majette.
If he’s not mowing, Majette will grab a garbage bag and handcart and clear the litter piles from the neighborhood’s roadsides and alleyways. Loose garbage from the nearby recycling center blows through the streets in an endless storm, so a few hours after he’s done with an area, it’s papered over again. And then he’s back at it.
On a tour of the neighborhood alleys, Majette apologizes for the mess. He was recently hospitalized for heart problems, and he says he’s slowing down. “I like cleanness,” he explains. “Keep things clean around you and nice things will happen, you see?”
Don’t expect Mayor Anthony A. Williams to hype the Congressman’s community spirit in the coming weeks. That’s because he doesn’t want D.C. residents to think of the Congressman’s district as one of those wonderful neighborhoods that he hails as the city’s hallmark. The mayor, instead, wants to play up the misconception that the area between N Street and the Anacostia River is a dead zone that lies beyond the borders of neighborly D.C.
And why not? If it’s nothing but a bunch of scruffy parcels, what’s the downside of bulldozing it in favor of a $400 million ballpark? Who needs this tow lot, these gay clubs, the nearby trash-transfer station, the warehouses?
The people who live here—that’s who. Buried under all the ballpark-booster rhetoric about the purportedly blighted industrial district is a real neighborhood. A neighborhood with streets and streetlights and occupied buildings. A neighborhood with places to work and play and garden and meet lots of men. A neighborhood where you can walk your dog without a leash. A neighborhood where you can do what you want and be left alone, because no one’s around to bother you or be bothered by you.
About a dozen people call it home. That’s not including all the people who hole up in the so-called vacant lots.
Sticking up for this neighborhood would be easier if it had a name. Some say “Near Southeast.” Some just offer directions and say, “It’s a couple of blocks from the Navy Yard.” You could say the same about plenty of anonymous areas of the Anacostia’s north bank. But if the neighborhood lacks cartographic distinction, it brims with character.
The place is ancient. It was built up in the 19th century and broken down in the 20th. Bricks of demolished row houses clog the earth. Dirt crawls over the traces of brick sidewalks. Nature wants everything back. But the people here keep the neighborhood upright. They wake up early and work with their hands and bodies. They are trash haulers, cement mixers, mechanics, sculptors, hustlers, dancers, and just plain old men. So long as they work, the neighborhood thrives.
For all his service, perhaps the Congressman’s greatest gift to his handful of constituents has been the Garden of Love, a pitch of homespun ingenuity at the corner of N Street and busy South Capitol. One day, soon after he moved to N Street, Majette set to work pulling bricks from the ground, tilling soil with a pick, and seeding it with squash, collards, green peppers, and tomatoes. He says that cars speeding north from the bridge slow down to check out the rows of fan-leafed cabbages.
The garden bears more than the fruit of the earth. Majette stopped up alleyway potholes with the bricks he recovered. He then set up horseshoe posts, placed a grill in the shade of a tree, and supplied the area with folding chairs available for anyone’s use.
N Street resident Carlton Stephenson could hardly do without it. The garden is a welcome change from the green Jeep where he lives. The Jeep is itself a refuge, a fair-weather home away from the crowded men’s shelter across South Capitol. “It’s more quiet on this side than on that side over there,” he says. The Jeep sits in a lot of towed cars directly across from Majette. Stephenson has the whole lot to himself, but there’s not much to do there. So he takes a seat in the garden with his Steel Reserve and relishes what little he has to call his own. “I drink my beer, smoke my cigarettes, and eat,” he says. “That’s it.”
At night, when it’s chilly, if he’s trying to stay out of the shelter, Stephenson scavenges for a working car battery from one of the neighborhood’s treasure-laden junk piles. He hooks the battery up to the Jeep and turns up the heat. In the summer, when it’s hot and sticky, he lines up a few chairs in the garden, lays himself down, and goes to sleep under the stars.
Now Stephenson will have to find somewhere else to spend his summers. In a few years’ time, maybe sooner, the collards and cabbages will disappear under the proposed ballpark’s main gate. “Man, I’m going to miss this place,” he says.
The land for Stephenson’s beloved Garden of Love comes courtesy of sex-industry entrepreneur Bob Siegel, who owns much of the O Street strip a block away. Just as all jurisdictions need a congressman, they need a mayor, too, a role that Siegel fills for no pay.
Siegel territory begins at the Frederick Douglass Bridge. Just as northbound commuters ramp down into the neighborhood, and before the Garden of Love comes into view, they pass below the blue-and-white “Siegel” sign posted on the building that houses La Cage aux Follies, a temporarily shuttered nude-dance bar. Siegel lives in an apartment above the club. He completed the building in the mid-’90s, an anchor for the properties he had just acquired along the north side of O Street SE, a longtime gay entertainment district. The sign was just serendipity—junk Siegel discovered beside I-295—and he used it to designate his newly consolidated empire.
The bridge is more than a geographic boundary for the O Street district. It is protection. Thanks to the bridge and the highway, the roar of traffic separates the O Street joints from Southwest residents who would otherwise be close neighbors—and potential busybodies. The clubs can be as loud as they want to be. No one’s going to complain.
The bridge is also Siegel’s alarm clock. He says the shaking of the bridge wakes him at about 5 every morning, and then he gets to work managing his properties. Siegel has been a fixture of the O Street scene for 25 years. He opened Glorious Health and Amusement, now largely a porn store, in 1979—the fourth gay business on the block.
“All that time I just took care of the block here,” he says of his tenure in the neighborhood. “I was the busiest business, and since I lived on the block, I was here at all times. People depended on me when their cars got broken into, or when they didn’t have money to get home. I was considered the mayor of O Street SE, and I still am.”
Here you can be somebody. In the last decade, Siegel not only became landlord to most of the places on the strip, he also amassed some political clout. Siegel represents the sparsely populated neighborhood on the local advisory neighborhood commission—most of his approximately 300 constituents are seniors living in subsidized housing about a half-mile away.
Siegel’s wider constituency, though, is the thousands of partygoers who flood the O Street joints on weekend nights—such as Secrets and the Follies. If the O Street strip has the feel of a one-stop shopping mart for local gay folk, it’s no accident. By buying up much of the block’s real estate, Siegel has fine-tuned the balance of entertainment offerings. So there’s only one video store—his—and one bathhouse, and he’s kept the block “exclusively gay.”
“I…didn’t want other competition, and I didn’t want us to be diluted and turned into another Dupont Circle,” he says.
Siegel, who says his clientele is more down-to-earth than the Dupont crowd, doesn’t have much use for the Northwest yuppies, who he argues helped torpedo his plans for a gay community center on the Garden of Love property. The community center was only part of Siegel’s expansion plans, which also included a possible restaurant.
“The mayor has just destroyed my Disney World dream,” he says.
In a semi-industrial neighborhood like this one, the opportunities for neighborliness happen much as they do in Cleveland Park. The arts manager walking her four terriers meets up with the advisory neighborhood commissioner walking his three Shar-Peis or the Congressman with his chow, Diamond. They say hello.
“My four dogs, they think of it as a second home,” says Patricia Ghiglino, director of the Washington Sculpture Center on Half Street SE. “They know exactly where to go, how far they can go down the street.”
“It’s very eclectic, industrial,” says her sculptor husband, Reinaldo, of the neighborhood. (He goes by one name.) “Everybody helps one another.”
“For example, the electricity cuts off, they’ll come over to use the phone,” says Ghiglino. “If their forklift breaks down, they can use ours.”
Like any vibrant D.C. neighborhood, however, this one has occasional difficulties with crime. Majette’s car, for instance, was stolen a couple of weeks ago. Junkies hang out behind some of the buildings. “I patrol the alley sometimes,” says Majette. “Sometimes I have to relax. That’s when they make their move.”
The area’s neighbors have picked up on Majette’s civic generosity. Some years back, Reinaldo replicated the lions for the Taft Bridge in Woodley Park. The concrete plant down the street allowed him to cast the lions on its premises. “Of course, they didn’t make a penny!” says Reinaldo. “They let us for nothing stay there for a couple of months! Just to help!”
Ghiglino and Reinaldo say they will find it hard to re-create such conditions anywhere else in the District—who else would put up with the dust and the screeching grind of stone cutting?
But for Ken Wyban, a retired Army officer, it will be absolutely impossible to move paradise. He lives in a detached Federal-style house separated from the row houses of N Street by an alleyway—a little slice of Georgetown, but with better views. Siegel once told him it was the neighborhood “oasis,” boasts Wyban.
He recalls his fondest memory of living here. It was Independence Day 2000, two years after he moved in, and he was hosting a fireworks-viewing party on his rooftop. The boom of the first rocket startled the birds that roost atop the trash-transfer site.
“It was like the Olympics, when they release the doves,” says Wyban. “They all stirred at once. You had thousands of birds, and it was overwhelming.”CP
Major land schemes on South Capitol Street have a shady history.
By Bob Arnebeck
Mayor Anthony A. Williams and his allies in the Wilson Building have hit upon a mantra in selling their plan to build a stadium in Southeast: “Not one dime” of money from everyday D.C. residents will go toward the ballpark. Instead, the tax burden will fall on the city’s biggest businesses, and revenues from the stadium, say proponents, will eventually pile up in the District’s coffers.
This isn’t the first time that powerful folks have attempted to sell a too-good-to-be-true land deal centered on a patch of South Capitol Street land not far from the Anacostia River.
In 1793, James Greenleaf of Boston bought 6,000 lots throughout the city, to the tune of almost $1 million. The money was to be paid in seven years on condition that he build 20 brick houses a year on the land. The government planned to use the installments to pay for building the Capitol.
Greenleaf’s investment attracted two other speculators, Robert Morris and John Nicholson, both of Philadelphia, who were the Kenneth Lay and Andrew Fastow of their era, only better. Morris had been superintendent of finance during the Revolution and then a senator. Nicholson could write accounts with both hands simultaneously and carry on a conversation at the same time.
The scam on which they sold Greenleaf was Enron-esque in scale. The Washington lots would provide the collateral for million-dollar loans from Europe to be used to buy 6 million acres of western land so the three speculators would have a virtual monopoly on westward expansion. They were cocky enough to write checks on their soon-to-be bursting European accounts. Then the bankers balked. The checks bounced; installments were not met, and work on the Capitol was in jeopardy, thanks to the speculators’ failure.
But the speculators hadn’t given up. Since their schemes on lots purchased from the government weren’t working, they turned toward privately owned land in the spring of 1796. Their ambitions brought them to South Capitol Street, the potential commercial center of the city. Much of the land there was owned by the spoiled scion of a famous Maryland family, Daniel Carroll, who, despite the scheduled arrival in 1800 of the federal government, refused to build houses for anybody but himself. Carroll sold them lots on condition that the speculators build 20 brick buildings by Sept. 26, 1796.
By the spring of 1796, the speculators’ financial empire had just about collapsed—the trio’s debts amounted to about $2 million for Greenleaf, $3 million for Morris, and $8 million for the ambidextrous Nicholson. Everything depended on completing those 20 buildings. Greenleaf bailed out and negotiated a limited stay in debtors’ prison in Philadelphia. Morris and Nicholson, meanwhile, raised enough hard currency to placate creditors in Philadelphia and came to D.C. to build. Such was the aura of these supposed millionaires that locals began buying their promissory notes, then worth about 17 cents on the dollar, in hopes that the 20 buildings would ignite a boom.
Construction started at South Capitol and N Streets in late June 1796. When the Irish digging the cellars wilted in the heat, the speculators hired slaves—a financial boon, because paying their owners could wait until the end of the year. Instructed to economize wherever he could, architect William Lovering designed two-story buildings sharing walls and equipped half of them with huge storefronts.
With unprecedented speed the houses rose. Morris and Nicholson announced a week before the deadline that the buildings were completed, even though they were unfinished inside and half had gaping holes in front waiting for glass.
Morris had $120 left to host a grand outdoor feast, but buyers and bankers were unimpressed. Nicholson and Morris would soon join Greenleaf in debtors’ prison. The barbecue, on South Capitol Street, was their last hurrah. The houses became instant slums. In 1824, they looked “as if they had been bombed by the British.”
There may not be a curse in all that ancient history, though one woman whose husband, an architect, was tormented by the speculators sent a letter to those gentlemen with a damning litany of the folks they had assembled south of the Capitol. Take her misery as fair warning. And if you must play ball there, mollify the mojo by looking bad luck in the face and picking from the woman’s list: “dolts, delvers, magicians, soothsayers, quacks, bankrupts, puffs, speculators, monopolizers, extortioners, traitors, petit foggy lawyers, and ham brickmakers.” Go Ham Brickmakers!CP
How a new baseball stadium will revolutionize the city’s social-service infrastructure
By Felix Gillette & Max Kornell
Last month, Mayor Anthony A. Williams signed a contract with Major League Baseball agreeing to build a publicly funded stadium on South Capitol Street in Southeast D.C. According to the mayor, erecting the baseball park will help spur economic development, expand neighborhood businesses, increase the city’s tax base, and provide free entertainment for low-income children. All of which is undeniably true. But why stop there?
In the coming months, Mayor Williams should spell out for the remaining naysayers how every inch of the stadium will improve the daily lives of all city residents—not just baseball fans. A few suggestions for starters:
Visitors’ training room: Neighborhood health-care clinic. D.C. General never offered this many ice baths.
Foul poles: Construction cranes. Between innings, watch gentrifiers do some heavy lifting.
Pitching mound: Soapbox for advisory neighborhood commissioners. During off nights, toss around petty accusations in front of 45,000 empty seats.
Box office: DPW “Clean It or Lien It” tickets. Buy a bleacher seat and pay off your overdue property taxes.
Bullpen: Neighborhood library. Wipe off the tobacco spit and escape into Pride and Prejudice.
Concessions: Marriott Charter School II. Top-notch vocational training for the District’s youth. “Cold after-school beer here!”
D.C. officials tout development spinoffs from a new ballpark. Want fries with that?
By Mike Kanin
Whenever a mega-project looms on the District’s skyline, local elected officials become overnight experts in urban economic development. To wit:
•Ward 2 Councilmember Jack Evans: “Folks, you have to invest money to make money. That’s what we’re going to do in Southeast when we build this stadium. Don’t look at the stadium itself. Look at the area, and look at the returns that we’re going to get.”
•Ward 6 Councilmember Sharon Ambrose, who represents the ballpark’s would-be neighborhood, speaks like a banker about the project. “It will help leverage development that is already going on there,” she told the Washington Post. “And it will, I hope, jump-start development along South Capitol Street.”
•Mayor Anthony A. Williams breaks out a more cautious line: “I believe it’s going to bring new people and tax money to our city,” he told the Post.
Ballpark opponents are busy debunking these representations, citing study after study on how baseball parks—while soaking the taxpayers and enriching the owners—do nothing for the surrounding community.
These folks have apparently never traveled to Baltimore. In 1992, Oriole Park at Camden Yards began to breathe new life into a mostly industrial area of Baltimore that a local vendor termed formerly “seedy.”
Thanks in part to the Yards’ spinoff benefits, Baltimoreans on a night at the park can now choose from at least 11 different versions of the greasy pregame meal. D.C. fans can expect a similar sports-bar bonanza near the banks of the Anacostia.
Herewith, an inventory of Camden Yards’ dynamic impact on this now-thriving Baltimore communities.
Babe Ruth Birthplace and Museum
Address: 216 Emory St.
Hours: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday to Sunday (November to March); 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., 7 p.m. on Oriole home-game days, Monday to Sunday (April to October); closed Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Day
Here’s a novel approach to turning ballparks into solid revenue: The online gift shop offers bricks from the Orioles’ old home, Memorial Stadium, for $25.
The Camden Pub
Address: 647 W. Pratt St.
Hours: 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Monday to Friday; 11 a.m. to midnight Saturday and Sunday; 9 a.m. to midnight Sunday for Ravens home games
Co-owner Pat Liberto says that there’s been a “serious decline” in baseball-game-day business over the past six years. But his Baltimore-style wings are just as tasty as ever.
Downtown Sports Exchange
Address: 200 W. Pratt St.
Hours: open at 11 a.m. daily
Almost every wall on the bottom floor of Phil Stankovic’s “true sports bar” is covered in televisions. If the O’s game gets boring, here’s where to go. Key menu item: burger and fries, to go with local microbrews.
Gino’s Bar & Grill
Address: 508 Washington Blvd.
Hours: 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. daily
Talk about your smooth deliveries: Gino’s has about a million different greasy solutions for your postgame cravings, but what really makes this order-out place special is the karaoke offered in its upstairs lounge. You’d better pick the right weekend, though. According to owner Devinder Dwivedi, Gino’s is so packed when competitive teams come through that “you can’t walk.”
Grinding Co. of America
Address: 512 Washington Blvd.
Hours: 6:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday to Friday
These folks will gladly “sharpen anything but your wit” and supply restaurants with knives throughout what Shop Foreman Bill Conner calls the “tri-state area”: Maryland, Virginia, and the District. But on game days, business goes way down. “With the traffic and the crowds,” says Conner, “people know not to come down here.”
Hopkins Bar & Grill
Address: Days Inn Inner Harbor, 100 Hopkins Place
Hours: 6:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. daily (restaurant); 5 p.m. to 1 a.m. daily (lounge)
This run-of-the-mill hotel bar offers hospitality rooms for baseball-loving tour groups.
Loft Convenience Store
Address: 38 S. Paca St.
Hours: 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday to Friday; 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday
Manager Amy Dave offers not one, but two turkey specials every day of the week. As if making the decision between “smoke” and regular weren’t hard enough, there’re also ham and roast beef.
Luna Del Sea
Address: 300 W. Pratt St.
Hours: 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. Sunday to Thursday; 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Friday and Saturday
Twenty-nine bucks will get you a fried-seafood plate. With a sales tax of 5 percent, that’s $1.45 a pop for the Baltimore coffers.
Max’s at Camden Yards
Address: 300 W. Pratt St.
Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday to Thursday; 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday, or until an hour after the game ends.
Chef Joel Price on Camden Yards: “In the summer, it’s our moneymaker.” Take that, Andrew Zimbalist.
Orioles Bar & Grille
Address: Sheraton Inner Harbor Hotel, 300 S. Charles St.
Hours: 6:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily (restaurant); noon to midnight daily (bar)
Eugene Tetteh, director of outlets for the Sheraton Inner Harbor Hotel, thought the addition of large, flat-screen TVs might help return the Orioles Bar & Grille to glory. Of course, an assist from the players would have been nice, too.
The Orioles Baseball Store*
Address: 333 W. Camden St.
Hours: 9 a.m. to 30 minutes after the last out Monday to Saturday and 11:30 a.m. to 30 minutes after the last out Sunday(game days); 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday to Saturday and Sunday noon to 5 p.m.(off-season)
“We do about $30,000 on game day,” says a Baseball Store employee. Will that compensate for the loss of Wet?
Past Times Café at Camden Yards*
Address: 333 W. Camden St.
Hours: 7:30 a.m. to 10 a.m., 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Executive Chef Derrick Purcell insists that whether or not the Orioles are playing, he’s ready to step up and deliver in the clutch. “We put out our best,” he says, adding, “For Thanksgiving, we’ll provide a great Thanksgiving meal.”
Address: 520 Washington Blvd.
Hours: 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. every day except Christmas
Bartender Gina Restivo says fans from Boston and New York flood in for matchups with the Orioles. Remember the words of Mayor Williams: “I believe it’s going to bring new people and tax money to our city.”
Sliders Bar & Grill
Address: 504 Washington Blvd.
Hours: 11:30 a.m. to 2 a.m. Monday to Friday; 6 p.m. to 2 a.m. Saturday; open at noon Sunday
A recent change in ownership means new, non-game-day hours for staff and new incentives for customers. “We’re gonna start running specials,” says Bar Manager Ronda Hayden. “Happy hour from 4 to 7.”
Upper Deck Bar and Grill
Address: 34 S. Eutaw St.
Hours: open 24 hours a day
On game days, the wait can extend far outside this diner’s door and down Eutaw Street. Now imagine what it must be like on “Thirsty Thursday,” when the Upper Deck offers 35-cent buffalo wings (“minimum purchase of 10”).
The Wharf Rat Camden Yards
Address: 204–208 W. Pratt St.
Hours: 11:30 a.m. (earlier on game days) to 2 a.m. daily
If you don’t like your pregame fish ’n’ chips with a side of gritty realism, head on down to this, one of two Wharf Rat locations in the city. “[We’re] a little bit more upscale,” says Assistant General Manager Joe Cimino.
*An asterisk denotes all those businesses that owe their existence solely to the ballpark.
Stealing a Home
By Mike Kanin
Poaching a city’s treasures is a great idea backed by centuries of tradition. The Romans did nothing but. The Mongols did it all across the Asian landmass. And Baghdad looters sure knew where to go once American troops ousted Saddam Hussein.
The trick is, you have to know what to take. Of all Montreal’s civic assets, the Montreal Expos are inarguably the least attractive. This season, the Expos finished with a record of 67-95, while attendance at Olympic Stadium averaged under 9,000 people per game. The team’s status as punch line for jock comedians dates back to the mid-’90s. That said, Montreal certainly has more to offer than its disaster of a baseball team. Here’s a list of targets the mayor seems to have overlooked:
Ben’s Deli: Nothing against our own landmark Ben’s, but check out this boast from the menu of a Montreal must, technically Restaurant Ben’s Charcuterie Inc.: “It was back in 1908 when Ben Kravitz and his wife Fanny produced the first smoked meat sandwich” which is, according to MontrealFood.com, “just two slices of rye with a mound of warm smoked meat between ’em—condiments being your choice of yellow mustard, ketchup or vinegar.” A simple, delicious trademark dish going back a century: The closest thing in D.C. is Ben’s half-smoke, vintage 1958.
“Double-Decker City”: Montreal teaches D.C. what sort of municipal genius it takes to create a viable underground shopping mall. Beneath the streets of downtown, a network of pedestrian passageways connects “thousands of boutiques, major hotels, restaurants, universities, dozens of office buildings and attractions,” according to Tourism-Montreal.org. For a brief stint in the ’90s, the District’s long-since-bankrupt Dupont Down Under connected thousands of vermin, major gastronomic failures, and dozens of shellshocked novice entrepreneurs.
Habitat ’67: As a contributor to the exposition for which Montreal’s former baseball team was named, Moshe Safdie, an Israeli-born, McGill University–educated architect, was given the opportunity to realize the concepts behind his 1961 thesis in the form of a Legoland-worthy apartment complex. The dwellings—assembled in a factory built nearby—were novel, modular abodes stacked on top of one another in a way that was designed to provide suburban space in an urban setting. But the cost proved prohibitive, and the planned 1,000-unit community (which initially was to include shops and a school) was scaled back to a relatively scant 158. That’s not a lot of dwellings, but it’s a nice break from the cookie-cutter condos in D.C.’s gentrification corridor.
Revolutionary spunk: In 1968, after more than 200 years of occupation by English-speaking peoples, a group of feisty Quebeckers, convinced that they’d do better without the rest of Canada, banded together to form Parti Québécois. In the intervening years, the Parti-ers, along with like-minded allies, have agitated for secession, culminating in a historic 1995 sovereignty showdown that garnered the group almost 50 percent of the vote. D.C.’s Statehood-Green Party, meanwhile, claims not even 2 percent of local voters.
True urbanity: Mayor Williams fancies himself a champion of neighborhoods. But in his six years of leading the city, what has he done with Tenleytown? Chevy Chase Circle? Palisades? Here’s a suggestion, Mr. Mayor: Bring us Montreal’s quartier latin, that city’s cultural center. It would, no doubt, fit neatly between Wisconsin Avenue and Reno Road. Or how about a Little Italy dropped into the Connecticut Avenue/Nebraska Avenue/Military Road triangle? And wouldn’t it be lovely to walk through Vieux Montréal on the sandy banks of the C&O Canal?—Mike Kanin
In search of a name to grace the chests of D.C.’s new team
By Josh Levin
The District’s sports franchises have all been losers (Caps), had offensive nicknames (Skins), or been losers with offensive nicknames (Bullets). This all started with the Washington Senators, a team that perpetually disappointed the local die-hards and mocked them by wearing a tribute to federal D.C. across its collective chest. The Senators were hateable losers: First in war, first in peace, last to embrace home rule.
Now that Washington’s getting another baseball team, we have a chance to start over. Not on the field, of course: The Montreal Expos are just as bad as the Senators ever were, plus they’re from France. No, this is the perfect chance to make the Washington baseball franchise our team by naming it all over again for the first time.
If you want to name the team the Senators, you’re the kind of clueless loser who would christen his kid Willy Loman III. What would we be gaining by reminding everyone how much we sucked the first two times?
The group stumping for Grays makes a good sales pitch: Honor the District’s Negro Leagues franchise, reach out to black Washingtonians, and leech off the good name of a baseball team that actually won games. But, really, what do you think about when you hear “Grays”? Dishwater, undesirable cuts of meat, poorly done laundry. Everything drab. Plus, that sparkling new stadium on the Anacostia would get christened the Gray Area. That makes the franchise sound indecisive.
At a time when the D.C. Council is considering legislation to finance the ballpark, Mayor Anthony A. Williams could use a name to appease his frothing opponents. The clear choice here is the Washington Generals, the name of the Harlem Globetrotters’ perpetually losing foe. In just two words, this formulation would silence all those megaphone-toting people who hate the team and want D.C. General the hospital instead. Plus, by invoking the Globetrotters’ mystique, there’d be the added bonus of reaching out to African-American basketball fans.
If you’re looking for more originality, here’s an idea: the Damn Yankees. Sure, the name might reek of defeatism, and it might conjure memories of those pathetic Senators teams of yore. Yes, it might even encourage devil worship. But we’d be the singingest, dancingest, Yankee-hatingest little baseball team in the majors!
What we need is a nickname that really stands for something, that will fight for social justice from the National League East basement. One idea that’s been making the rounds is to call the team the Shadow Senators. After the announcement of the Expos’ impending arrival, the halls of the Wilson Building were atwitter over the possibilities. Paul Strauss could be the mascot! They could stock the Anacostia with shad! The New York Mets would know about D.C.’s struggle for voting rights!
If you get past the cutesiness, the really elegant thing about Shadow Senators is that it backs D.C. statehood and pays tribute to the Grays at the same time. In the Negro Leagues, players used to play “shadow ball,” a pregame routine in which they’d toss an invisible ball around the infield to entertain the crowd. D.C. native Brad Snyder’s history of the Grays franchise is called Beyond the Shadow of the Senators. (When asked for his thoughts about the Shadow Senators moniker, Snyder says, “It’s a cute joke.” He prefers Grays.)
As with D.C.’s actual shadow senators, there are some major problems with a Shad Sens franchise. What would happen if (when!) D.C. eventually got voting rights? Instead of cheering, I’d be sad that my jersey had gone instantly retro—I’d have to throw it in the back of the closet with my rec-league basketball uniforms for the Control Board (we controlled the boards!) and the Crack (we broke yo momma’s back!). Plus, after we got legit congressional representation, would we just go back to being the Senators? Unacceptable.
The biggest problem with thinking of a name that advocates for something is that the most worthy causes don’t always roll off the tongue—sorry, Washington Underpaid Teachers and Washington Inequitable Minority Hiring Practices.
The best option is the Anacostia Waterfronts. It would shine a light on an area that Mayor Williams is desperately trying to revitalize. It would put the District in the vanguard of those honoring the late, great Marlon Brando. And most of all, it would institute a team motto to encapsulate everything you need to know about D.C. sports: “I coulda been a contender.”CP
Art accompanying story in the printed newspaper is not available in this archive: Darrow Montgomery, Max Kornell.